~~The second volume in a collection of accounts of Mosby and his Confederate Raiders
In this second volume of personal narratives by two members of Mosby’s command, readers will find the personal experiences of Johnny Munson, a teenager from Richmond who realised his ambitions for high adventure riding with Mosby. John Alexander, whose book is also included here, set out to join his friends in the ‘Black Horse’ troop of the 4th Virginia Cavalry, but found the appeal of a ‘partisan ranger’ life irresistible. The American Civil War brought to the fore a number of outstanding military figures and, given its culture and chivalric spirit, it is perhaps fair to say that the South provided more that its share of extraordinary soldiers. There is something alluring about the daredevil raider, who appears from nowhere behind enemy lines and wreaks havoc, and then disappears before he can be brought to account. Such men were became legends, and foremost among them in the Confederate Army was the ‘Gray Ghost,’ Virginian cavalryman John Singleton Mosby. Like his predecessor, Robert Rogers of the Rangers, he possessed courage, intellect, daring and martial fortitude ready-made for the perilous form of war he chose to fight. Fortunately, several of Mosby’s men left fine first hand accounts of their time serving under this famous commander, and Leonaur is republishing all of them—in value for money omnibus editions—to provide American Civil War enthusiasts with a comprehensive library of the subject.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
The whistle had been blown just a little too soon, for what we supposed was the main body of Reed’s men and had fired into proved to be only an advance guard and, when Chapman charged upon the pike, he was abreast of the main body which had turned and begun retreating. When Mosby appeared on the pike with Companies A and B none of the enemy were in front of him and we had to gallop up the pike to catch up with them. When we reached them Chapman and his men were already there, and all of a sudden it became a hand-to-hand affair. It was soon evident to Reed that he was in for a whipping, and his men began breaking through the fences and into the fields, but fighting all the while. His Californians, especially notoriously good fighters, were standing up to the rack like men, dealing out to us the best they had. They rallied at every call on them and went down with banners flying. The road was rapidly filled up with dead and wounded men and horses, and riderless horses were galloping in terror everywhere. We chased the flying men in every direction, constantly emitting the Mosby yell to give speed to their heels. Many of them were driven into the Potomac River, and dead and drowned bodies were found around the neighbourhood for several days afterwards.
No man in the Command was nearer to the thick of that fight than Mosby himself. There was no room, after once we got started, to lead a charge, and the chief got right in the middle. I saw him weaving in and out of the fighting mass like a ferret, fighting hand-to-hand with every man who would stand before him. His fine mare was shot early in the action, and he sat her firmly throughout the entire fight, though she was on three legs only.
There was in our Command one Baron von Massow, a Prussian officer, whom came to us with letters, looking for adventure and desiring to study our tactics, like the Austrian officer of whom I shall speak in my account of the Greenback Raid. Since 1865 he has been identified with the German Army and has had part in every war since. Today he commands the crack cavalry corps, the Ninth, of the Imperial German Army, and as I write these lines his photograph is before me, showing his breast covered with medals of honour. He was one of the handsomest men I ever saw.
That morning, at Dranesville, the baron rode into the fight in the squad in front of me. A long redlined cape was thrown back from his shoulders exposing his glittering uniform. From his hat waved a big ostrich plume and he dashed into the fray with a bright German sabre flashing in the light. I have not the slightest doubt that he was mistaken for Mosby, for he was a very conspicuous figure and drew a perfect rain of bullets and sabre thrusts from the enemy. He saw Captain Reed and charged him. Reed threw up his pistol hand and surrendered to the baron, who passed him by to charge on the next man. When his back was turned Reed shot him through the body. Seeing Captain Wm. H. Chapman rushing towards him to avenge the deed, he started on a run but was immediately overtaken by Chapman who shot him through the body, falling dead near the baron who was lying in the road where he was shot. I was near enough to see him hit and remember he tried to raise his weapon for another shot, found his strength going, and plunged forward on his face dead.
I saw the baron lying in the road with his martial cloak around him, magnificent in his colours, and looking every inch a hero. I had no time at that moment to stand in contemplation of the real military man among us, so I jumped my horse over him and rode on. The brave German pulled through after a long and hard siege, and made up his mind to return to his native land; the following summer he bade many of us an affectionate farewell, and left us. Some of our old Command correspond with him to this day. I got the facts of Captain Reed’s death from Colonel Wm. H. Chapman.
Before we went into the action that day I loaned one of my pistols to a new man who had none, which left me but one for my own use. I did fairly well until the end of the action, when I got the drop on a Californian with my last shot. He threw up his pistol and exclaimed, “I surrender.”
I took it for granted he meant what he said, and rode past him, firing at a man beyond who was trying to work his way through a wedge of his men, on the roadside. Then the man who so readily surrendered turned and shot me in the back as I passed him. I don’t blame him in the least, for I ought to have had the sense to take his pistol from him when he held it up. Lud Lake, who was an eyewitness to his attempt on my life, shot and killed him. When the bullet struck me only a half inch from my backbone, I felt a numbness coming over my legs first and then my body. One of our men reached out and held me on my horse. At that instant Harry Sweeting was shot at my side and the same man reached out and seized him, too: but Harry’s wound hurt him so badly he pulled away and fell from his horse into the road. He managed to drag himself to a little stream trickling along the roadside, where he bathed his wound in the cold water and stopped the flow of blood. He recovered.
My friend who held me on my horse (I never learned his name), succeeded in getting me into a nearby house and placing me on a lounge, after which he rushed off to finish his engagement with the Yankees. The wounding of a man in our Command was of little moment and my friend never thought enough of the incident to look me up later and receive my thanks. Shortly afterward, when the fight was over and the men started home, some of them, seeing my horse tied to the fence, came in and found me trying to amuse myself by counting the clock ticks, and took me away.
At the beginning of the fight the family had run out of the house and gone to the woods for protection and I was alone when the boys found me. I must have been an attractive object, for I had put my hand back of me to ease my pain and got it smeared with warm blood, and then wiped my face with my bloody hand. My wound kept me out of service for a few weeks, but I had gentle nursing by Mrs. Edmonds and her daughters and the best of medical care from Dr. Dunn, who, having no nitrate of silver, used to dress my wound with burnt alum; he had me on a diet of bacon and cabbage till he could get my stomach strong.